Music of the Post-Paradigm – The New White Trash and the Age Of Authority

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCTOBER 5, 2013

“This is dangerous music…in many ways. But Doug Lewis has always been a subtly subversive artist. So AGE OF AUTHORITY, the latest release by musician/producer Lewis and NEW WHITE TRASH, should not come as a surprise to lucky listeners who have enjoyed his previous political/philosophical/surrealistic musical journeys (especially the tour de force “Crudland” and “Tell The Time”). Those just getting into Lewis will discover a pleasingly quirky collection that shows calculated disregard for sonic tropes and clubland clichés. On Age Of Authority, Lewis pairs his truly insightful writing and lyrics with those of bandmates Kristen Vigard and Michael C. Ruppert to explore the moral ramifications of the disenfranchised masses struggling to survive in the new world order. It’s not exactly a message being trumpeted by mainstream media…and for good reason — in the Age Of Authority, we are ALL New White Trash.”  –  Michael Lynn-E Entertainment/True Hollywood Story. 

A discussion with Doug Lewis:

VAC: This is the second album from New White Trash, with much the same ‘cast’. How did it come about?

LEWIS: After completing DOUBLEWIDE, the first NWT album, I moved the studio from Venice (CA) to the north end of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. Kristen and Mike Ruppert had moved out of Los Angeles a year before me, Kristen to Taos, NM, and Mike to Sebastopol.  In August of 2012, Mike made the move to my place in CO, which was a year after I had established a base. Another NWT contributor, James Mathers, paid a visit with Lea Petmezas in Oct of 2012 and when Lea decided to move out here, James made the move as well.  During the spring/summer/fall of 2012, I had worked out some songs on the guitar along with some bass lines and so making an album was a great way to spend the winter of 2012/13.

VAC:  The music and vibe of Age Of Authority feels  like a continuation of Doublewide, thematically anyway.

LEWIS: The big picture hardly changes – love and war, heart and head, these are the themes of the real world and of our music, so our songs are either wry love letters or views on events torn from the news of the day.

VAC: The tagline for the New White Trash is ‘music of the post-paradigm’; do you consider this a genre?

LEWIS: It’s more of a personal brand, in that, collectively, we encourage the music to move in ‘meaningful directions’, one of which, for us, is social commentary/criticism, another is the draw of our experiences in the form of – usually and ultimately – cautionary tales. The ‘post-paradigm’ reference came out of Mike and I drawing up a raison d’être to offer insight into the NWT in name and in musical direction.

VAC: Your bandmate Mike Ruppert is fond of quoting you – “You can’t write a protest song on a full stomach.” How does that relate to your work throughout the years?

LEWIS:  The music of the New White Trash is the outcome of a shared and outspoken sensibility between Kristen, Mike, myself and others.  We are all on the same side of the cultural fence, so to speak. And we share an appreciation for the process and the sacrifice it takes to make an art project and create a body of work like an album. Also, we’ve all been doing this a while and in our various different way – Mike with his activism, Kristen has been writing, recording and performing music her entire life, and me, Age of Authority is my 22nd album as a musician/producer.  I’ve only ever made music with a cultural lean and a political pov. And I’ve only ever made music with those mining the same ground. Anything else, at this late stage of the game, feels pointless.

VAC: Over the course of making all this music, all these songs spread out over twenty-two albums, how has the process on songwriting  changed for you, personally speaking.

LEWIS: For me, the most profound change to the process happened in 1995 when I amputated the ring finger on my left hand. My guitar playing, post the loss of that finger, continues to evolve in ways of physical dexterity and personal style. Chopping off a finger then expecting to resume playing the guitar is not something I would recommend as a career choice, but for me, over time, I have no regrets. Otherwise, playing guitar, writing melodies and lyrics, crafting a song is a task like any other; you commit to the effort and embrace the experience of tuning in, musically and creatively speaking.  It’s about inhabiting a world and also enjoying the creative process as a form of meditation/work.  Over the years I have become particularly fond of treating the recording process as a community event, open door/open room style.

VAC: Being a guitar player with an amputated finger places you in an exclusive club…

LEWIS: Like I said, not something I would recommend.

VAC: What next for you and the New White Trash?

LEWIS: Looking forward to creating the third of the NWT trilogy, and hope to begin recording by mid-November (2013), although I’ve just received word that my 91 year old mother, who lives in San Francisco, needs some care, so I’m headed there now.  We’ll see.

Doug Lewis

Doug Lewis

Doug Lewis

Doug Lewis

Age Of Authority

Age Of Authority

Age Of Authority

Age Of Authority

Age Of Authority

Age Of Authority

Age Of Authority New White Trash

Age Of Authority
New White Trash

NWT logo sticker grey


AGE OF AUTHORITY – The New White Trash and ‘Music of the Post-Paradigm’, Volume II

Rough mixes of selected songs from AGE OF AUTHORITY have been playing for the past eight weeks on the LIFEBOAT HOUR, a weekly one-hour radio show hosted by MICHAEL C. RUPPERT on the Progressive Radio Network.  Ruppert, former cop turned whistleblower, author of Crossing The Rubicon who was also featured in the documentary, Collapse, calls his show, “a nightclub at the end of the world”. The NEW WHITE TRASH is in heavy rotation, and for good reason.  Ruppert, along with Venice, CA music producer and Venice Arts Club host Doug E. Lewis, formed the NWT in 2009, soon after they met over dogs at a local Venice dog park. According to Ruppert, “our dogs bonded and so did we”. Meeting Lewis allowed Ruppert to return to his roots as a singer and fulfill his dream of making music.

The result of their collaboration was released January 11, 2011. Recorded at VENICE ARTS CLUB, the album DOUBLEWIDE, a 37 song 2 CD set features a host of Venice locals including multi-instrumentalist and musical activist Wade DeVoid, former Broadway and Soap star, Kristen Vigard, artist and Warhol protege James Mathers, drummer/programmer Andy Kravitz, guitarist Michael Jost, former Shadowfax bass player Phil Maggini, among others.

Next up for the NWT is AGE OF AUTHORITY, due out July 7, 2013. Recorded over the 2012-13 winter at Lewis’ new facility – RED CLOUD RANCH AND RECORDING STUDIO – located in Moffat, CO, at the base of the Sangre De Cristo range in Southern Colorado, Age Of Authority is 18 new compositions from a this time smaller ensemble of players, including Ruppert, Lewis, DeVoid, Mathers, Vigard and with bass guitar contributions from former Frank Zappa bass player, Arthur Barrow.

Says Lewis, “Out here in Southern Colorado though we’re pretty much on the lone prairie, our goal was to make music in a ‘Venice Arts Club’ kind of way, meaning to involve the locals, to find whomever was into making  music and had a desire to sing or play to come on down and step up to the mic. So we found some amazing talent in the town of Crestone, located about twenty miles from my place…just down the road.  Turns out Lea Petmezas, who we met through James Mathers, is a gifted singer, as is Jessica Holopeter.  We enlisted JeseRe Pulver on flute and also ‘Diamond’ Dave Steele, who contributed some acoustic guitar tracks.”

Kristen Vigard, who  now calls Taos, NM, home and has been making music with Lewis for twenty years, spent the better part of the three month recording process driving back and forth from Taos through sometimes wicked winter weather, explains that, “…it was totally worth it.  Anytime I have an opportunity to record with Dougie, I’ll take it.  We’ve been doing this a long time together, him and I. He knows how to make a record and have fun doing it.”

Ruppert agrees, and adds, “making this album was endearing but also enduring because, unlike being in Venice at the VAC with the back doors open and the fire pit flaming and lots of people milling and chilling, out at Red Cloud in Colorado we had a much more isolated and harsh environment – extreme cold made it difficult to remain outside for longer than a few minutes, so it was the group of us spending most of our time inside focused on the tunes. But what a great process it is to work on songs, writing lyrics and rehearsing parts…I love it!”

As a theme, Age Of Authority is a coherent followup to Doublewide. Lewis and Ruppert established early on, by way of manifesto, a musical activism built on social commentary combined with equal part exploration of heart, told primarily through a series of cautionary tales…love, loss, joy, sorrow.

Pre-release copies of Age Of Authority are available for review to music bloggers and music zines. Please contact: BillyBollocks@mac.com

Thanks for tuning in.

NWT Age of A Cover

NEW WHITE TRASH – Age Of Authority

MIchael C. Ruppert and Doug E. Lewis

MIchael C. Ruppert and Doug E. Lewis

Music producer Doug E. Lewis

Music producer Doug E. Lewis

Michael C. Ruppert still from the film, Collapse

KV smile

Kristen Vigard

James Mathers

James Mathers

Doug E. Lewis

Doug E. Lewis

Lea P

Colorado artist Lea Petmezas

Age Of Authority - Long Cold Winter

Age Of Authority – Long Cold Winter

Age Of Authority - Dirty Love

Age Of Authority – Dirty LoveAge Of Authority - Heart On My Sleeve

Age Of Authority – Heart On My Sleeve
Age Of Authority - Foreign Soldiers

Age Of Authority – Foreign Soldiers

NWT logo sticker


‘House Of The Rising Sun’ Revisited – ‘New Orleans’ by the Fell Music Project.

A version of HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN, titled NEW ORLEANS, by the FELL MUSIC PROJECT, produced by Frank Zappa alumni Arthur Barrow at Lotek Studios in Venice, CA.

 

 

VAC GRAPHIC BUTTON


DANCING WITH CANCER (part 2) – “You Must Do The Thing You Cannot Do”

As described in the ABOUT section of this blog, in 2006 I was confronted with what felt like, at the time, insurmountable odds relative to my survival. Cancer (Cancy Wancy) had again come-a-calling and brought with it a diagnosis similar to the one received back in 2003 – 6 months,  max. (Dancing With Cancer, Part 1 is here).

Some things you write down, a word, a clue, a quote, a statement, and like a raft on a sea you cling to those words, that idea, in much the same way a shipwrecked sailor clings to a point of light on a darkened horizon, as a way forward and a direction home through the fog of long night. I remember always a conversation I had thirty years ago with my friend, the jewelry designer, Esmeralda Gordon.  We were chatting about one thing or another, philosophically speaking, when Ez said to me, “you know, Mr. Dougie, it’s not about survival, it’s about development.  Another friend, Mark Bautzer, chimed in, “that’s right, baby, it’s all about evolution.”

This thought, this idea of survival vs development, or evolution, has served me in such a way as to provide distinction and clarification through times of personal trouble and uncertainty. It has allowed me to move forward into unguarded territory and to surrender myself to the situation at hand, to commit to the effort and embrace the experience of developing an expanded set of tools, a way of thinking, a path of proceeding past the edge of the darkness and beyond the seen into a realm of accepting what unknown lies ahead.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

FOUR, the final album of the FELL MUSIC PROJECT,  is a diary of my second turn on the dance floor with Cancy Wancy.  The final song on FOUR, titled XYZ, relates directly to the above enlightened quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. For me, issues of  survival and development are related not only to an acceptance of my personal situation but to meaningful aspects of personal growth. I would not wish my journey on anyone, nor would I trade it for anything.  Living and dying several times in this one lifetime has provided a unique and extrasensory perspective. Thanks for tuning in.

Doug Lewis
041412

FELL MUSIC – XYZ

XYZ

Been running on the high
Temperature side
Breaking out in wet chills and hot sweats
Skin burns silver, red – too hot to touch
Doctor comes in, light goes down says
You may have a year – What was that sound

When the night falls
You just have to look it in the eye
Like you’re staring down the barrel of a gun
Staring at the sun
And it’s buring you away

Headed through a nigh turn
Driving home, I’m alone and thinking
Trails of taillights snake and burn
Some freeway flashers blinking
Everybody lies – it’s true
But when there’s no one left to lie to
No one left to fool, no one left but you

What’s that sound
When the night falls 

You just have to take it for a ride
Down the center of the other side
Down the center of the middle
And it’s blowing you away

I need someone warm to stay with me
With a kind heart, the gentle touch of someone sweet
I’m alright, I know where the light is
I know the cost, I won’t get lost
I need someone warm to stay with me

What was that sound
You just have to make another start
Somewhere from the center of your heart
Like you’re staring down the barrel of a gun
And it’s blowing you away

DOUG LEWIS

FELL MUSIC


CRUDLAND – Jamie Cohen Art and Fixture

CRUDLAND is a manifesto booklet created by Venice CA artist  JAMIE COHEN (1953-2008). In a series of stark collages, Cohen tells the story of a world gone mad with signage, branding, innuendo and immersion into a culture of advertising and excess.  The Crudland manifesto could be understood as Cohen’s ground of being in that all his later work in sculpture, painting, drawing, writing and song could be traced back to Crudland. The theme of Crudland also served as inspiration for the first release from the FELL MUSIC project, appropriately titled, Crudland.  In 1997, Cohen and Fell Music founder Doug Lewis collaborated with L.A. photographer Patricia De La Rosa on a series of photography portraits using the original Cohen sculpture series as the basis for what would become album art for the Fell Music/Crudland project. It is possible that the original Crudland manifesto booklet still exists.  What we do have are the original images taken by De La Rossa of the Jamie Cohen sculpture series known as Crudland.

JAMIE COHEN – Ball with Hat

JAMIE COHEN – Clown

JAMIE COHEN – Bulleted Heart

JAMIE COHEN – Finger This

JAMIE COHEN – Under Lock and Key

JAMIE COHEN – Dogscape

JAMIE COHEN – Colossus of Crudland

JAMIE COHEN – Crudland Man

JAMIE COHEN

DOUG LEWIS, JAMIE COHEN

FELL MUSIC COLLECTION


AMERICAN LITE – Music of the Post-Paradigm

From FELL MUSIC, Volume One. Recorded at Lotek Studios, Venice CA. The saga of AMERICAN LITE is perfectly illustrated by this piece of wall-art.  Scroll down for video.

AMERICAN LITE

Ready or not, here we go
On demand, the future’s here
On the money, we’re right on track
Are you ready for years of fear

God, Country, War, Money
Burn down the barn to kill off the rat
Accident, incident, another loose coincidence
Throw out the baby to save the bath

Like it or not, all aboard
Men in suits meet the sailor’s whore
There’s a lizard with a slithering tongue
His friend the snake is from the uppermost rung

They’re salivating, waiting in line
For their turn with the whore divine
Torch burning bright, she pays the rent
The blinds are drawn for money well spent

Good news, it’s fair to say
Future’s here where the road gives way
In the fog a sign illuminates
Red light flashing in the night

Return your seatback to the upright position
Fasten your belt for the head on collision
Go ahead and scream but please don’t make a sound
This Friday fish dinner looks like bloody ground round

Grab some bread and run for cover cries a warning
Could be a nasty change coming like a hurricane
Captain and the First Mate staring out across the wake
Of an angry sea
Passengers are getting worried, looking out beyond the break
Not sure what they see

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

FELL MUSIC – American Lite

FELL MUSIC COLLECTION
 

WAR CREEP – Fell Music

WAR CREEP, from FELL MUSIC, volume 2  features the Venice Children’s Choir. Recorded 2002, Venice CA.

There’s a high noon hanging
Cop in a frenzy to get his first kill
Where the two worlds meet
Cop shoots an innocent boy then a go-go-girl
Inside the War Zone
TV’s on – Guns are blaring
On every channel – violence glaring
Lines are drawn – Eternal war
In the name of God – signed in blood

Wags his gun
Kid turns to run
All is war through eyes of war
For the man in the uniform
From Baghdad to Marathon
A noise on the radio
That little voice in the back of your head
Don’t take your eye off the man in the uniform
Don’t take your gaze off the man…

PARTY LINE – Jamie Cohen collage

FELL MUSIC – related content


THE NEW WHITE TRASH – From ‘Dangerous Ground’ to ‘Doublewide’

In 1997, a decade before a fortuitous meeting between Michael C. Ruppert and Venice musician Doug Lewis in the spring of 2008, Lewis was busy recording his on-going Fell Music project. The meeting of Ruppert and Lewis would lead to the forming of the New White Trash and the making of their debut album, Doublewide, a 37 song double-disc set chronicling the slide of the former middle class down a ‘steep and slippery slope to the new white trash, a place and genre impartial to race, creed or color’. Doublewide was released January 11, 2011 and has since found a home with a worldwide audience of truth seekers investing in alternative and conscious voices to match the signs of the times. One song from Doublewide, titled We Can’t Escape From found its way onto the soundtrack of the DVD release of Collapse the Movie, directed by documentary filmmaker Chris Smith and featuring Michael Ruppert as the only character in the film. Roger Ebert said this of the film: “I don’t know when I’ve seen a thriller more frightening. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen. “Collapse” is even entertaining, in a macabre sense. I think you owe it to yourself to see it. ”

Some people meet over drinks; Ruppert and Lewis met at a dog park adjacent to the Santa Monica airport near Venice, CA. In an excerpt taken from the article ‘Grooving With The Archetypes‘, a piece about the VAC written by Bud Theisen, Lewis says, “Mike and I met at the local dog park, our dogs got on very well and so did we. I gave Mike a copy of the Cheeters first CD and he loved it. He gave me a copy of Crossing The Rubicon, which I devoured.”  Lewis, always on the prowl for new musical talent, took an interest in Ruppert’s desire to play and record music. “I made him work for it,” says Lewis. “I pushed him pretty hard and he didn’t fold. In fact, he blossomed. Mike is a great teacher about what he knows, and a terrific  student when it comes to learning new skills.”

For Ruppert, those new skills included learning how to work the microphone while developing a more ‘left brain’ approach to writing, away from the factual reporting of his day to day and into a more sublime world of the trans-poetic, lyrical experience.  In a word…storytelling. Fortunately for Ruppert, Lewis had been mining this ground for decades, with themes and songs of cautionary tales to do with protest, eternal war, with revealing commentary swiped against a background extending from Vietnam to the big bomb.

For Lewis and Ruppert, there were no issues in reaching common ground in the recording studio. With their two sensibilities cut from the same desire to formulate words into the action of social commentary by speaking out through popular song, Lewis and Ruppert, along with Andy Kravitz, Kristen Vigard, Cara Tompkins, James Mathers, Malia Luna, and a host of others, poured their time and energies into recording their collaborations for what would become Doublewide.

Could two people be more different?  Lewis – tall, lanky, whip-smart with movie-star looks (think Willem DeFoe meets Chet Baker) and more rock and roll attitude than most rock & rollers vs Ruppert – a former LAPD cop who looks like he could be Wilford Brimley’s kid brother. Yet, for Lewis, meeting and recording with Ruppert had a reassuring effect. “Mike and my sensibilities are perfectly aligned. I’d been working this ground a long time, steering each of my collaborative projects into a direction of relevance, refining the message, speaking out. Working with Mike was a breath of fresh air. Between us, we hit a groove and didn’t waver”

Dangerous Ground‘ from Lewis’ Fell Music project was recorded in 1997 at Arthur Barrow’s Lotek Studios in Mar Vista. The message is familiar, the imagery informed and the lineage apparent from the Dangerous Ground to Doublewide.

Mark Baer, President, Museum of Monterey and Managing Director of SmartChannel.TV
March 2012

DANGEROUS GROUND video from FELL MUSIC TWO
THE FELL MUSIC PROJECT
DOUBLEWIDE from THE NEW WHITE TRASH. Artwork/Cara Tompkins
THE NEW WHITE TRASH. Artwork/Cara Tompkins
MICHAEL C. RUPPERT and DOUG LEWIS. Image/Cara Tompkins
RUPPERT/LEWIS at the VENICE ARTS CLUB. Image/Cara Tompkins

FELL MUSIC – ‘War Eternal’

The songs of FELL MUSIC are themes of love lost and found, experience and worldly adventure from the high street to the low, and pure protest – against war, injustice, inequality. Fell Music is social commentary bled into song from the page of todays culture.

“Equal rights and justice for all, that’s my beat.  War is a lie. Politics and politicians play a money game for a money grab. Television and Madison Ave. are vacum’s built to sustain passivity and subtract life and imagination from those they attract. The real world is somewhere else. I figured out early on that Vietnam was a calculated and cold-blooded propaganda campaign built on media cooperation and most of all built on fear…fear of the VC, fear of communism, fear of the unknown. So yea, my writing and songs have to do with a world of hearts and bones, love and loss, a through the looking glass view from the here to beyond, an awakening and an enlightenment.” DL

Here’s a track from ‘that side’ of Fell Music, titled WAR ETERNAL:

FELL MUSIC – WAR ETERNAL

DOUG LEWIS of FELL MUSIC


FELL MUSIC – Sonic Waves From Venice, CA

ARTICLE AND INTERVIEW BY M.D. BAER FOR SMARTCHANNEL.TV

The four-album Fell Music project was recorded at Lotek Studios, Mar Vista, CA from 1994-2007.  Produced by Arthur Barrow and Doug Lewis, the original seven albums were edited into a four-album project now hosted by Bandcamp, the independent music hosting site. The Fell Music project sets the tone for other music projects and collaborations by Doug Lewis, whose propensity for ‘bringing in the neighborhood’ is evident in Fell Music and remains a strong theme of his later work, including The Cheeters, Venice Arts Club Music, New White Trash and Gunter Vile.

M.D. BAER: Fell Music is both similar and unlike your other projects, similar in that it is a large body of work, and also how it brings in a group of contributors to the project, many of whom are not trained musicians, or musicians at all. Also, the sound is more produced, yet not as intimate as your later work.  Can you trace the beginnings of Fell Music and it’s evolvement into your later projects?

LEWIS: My first experiences recording sound were with Jim Lewis – Col. Jim Lewis – my dad.  Jim had a thing for audio, mostly tinkering, but did a lot of reel to reel recording of Jazz music, also Hawaiian, which is where I grew up (Hawaii) until I was ten. He also had a decent stereo system; late sixties and seventies stereo systems were rocking – big home speakers, a MacKintosh turntable and an analog receiver that weighed a ton. Back then, music sounded really good through his system, especially the Jazz and the Hawaiian.

M.D. BEAR: That’s a long way from rock and roll…

LEWIS: Rock & Roll was around my corner, that’s for sure. After Jim retired from the Army he moved us to San Francisco, Marin County exactly. Summer Of Love, June of 1967. His dream was to become a television news broadcaster, or work in radio, which he fulfilled.  He had a real passion for speaking, using his voice.  He had maybe the lowest voice ever, not gravely or smoke-filled, but low in a smooth and pleasantly resonant way…I wouldn’t know another voice to compare it to. Lee Marvin had a low voice which always caught me off guard, but nowhere near Jim’s tenor.

M.D. BAER: And the music?

LEWIS: Went from Jim’s turntable collection to San Fran street scene in full bloom. SF was the place, that’s for sure, and at the same time Marin was a hotbed of psychedelic activity. I was young, but still, the times were groovy. And so was the music. I became radicalized by the experience, caught a glimpse of the power of Love, and witnessed a revolution of sorts. I was enough in the cycle of its movement to have been influenced, probably profoundly. From there, it was a quick series of lefts and rights to GO! by John Clellon Holmes, then Kerouac,Ginsberg, Burroughs, Paul Bowles, the lot. I self-educated, developed an urge for self-expression, let the words of Whitman, Neruda,, Crane and Proust fall into place.  Around that same time I had an older friend, kind of a big brother named Ralph Robinson.  Ralph was in the Air Force, stationed at Travis, and he would take me out on backpacking trips through the Sierras.  Shaw said that thirteen is the age when the ‘passions bloom’…or they don’t. He was referring to art, poetry, color, nature both natural and human. This aligns perfectly with my story. At that age I lived through a dynamic consequence of events, the San Fran revolution, Vietnam, available literature and a viseral experience with nature and the road.  I began to seek adventure, saw myself as a poetic adventurer, read Ulysseus and felt the poetic urge to write, travel, explore.

M.D. BAER: You’ve certainly done all of that. When did you begin playing guitar?

LEWIS: I was singing in bands before I ever began playing the guitar. It wasn’t until my second move to L.A. that I picked up the guitar, when I was twenty-two or twenty-three. Until then, everything I had written was in verse and books of poetic rambling, a lot of which would eventually be transformed into lyrics for songs, first with a band called The Ducks, then into the Fell Music project. For me, playing the guitar was always only a means to an end. No one would ever credit me with being a great musician because I’m not. And I’m a lot worse for wear after losing the left ring finger on my left hand. But I did always seek out a decent player, someone to collaborate with. I went through a few transformations before settling into a way of working that produced Fell Music.

M.D. BAER: Which was?

LEWIS: BY the time I met Arthur Barrow and Lotek Studios, I was immersed in writing with the guitar.  In fact, the first recordings I made with Arthur was with a bass player and a mandolin player, Jay Clark and Dorit Yaffe. These were songs the three of us had been playing around town in the coffeehouses, open mic’s, etc. That was in 1994.  I lost my finger in March of 1995 and didn’t begin again with Arthur until 1996. We completed, Crudland, the first Fell Music album, in 1997.

M.D. BAER: How did you meet Arthur Barrow?

LEWIS: Through Jamie Cohen. Jamie was a well known music A&R guy who eventually dropped out to pursue his art.  I met Jamie in the early 80’s, at a under-the-underground club on the Sunset Strip called AT SUNSET. I was one of the founders of At Sunset, and early on we ‘hired’ Jamie to DJ on occasion. But Jamie and I didn’t become close until we lived around the corner from each other in Venice, around 1992. From then on we became real close buddies and great friends. Jamie led me to Arthur and eventually Jamie and I recorded 66 songs together with Andy Kravitz on a project we named The Cheeters, from June, 2006 to the end of August, 2008.  Jamie was also a big contributor to the Venice Arts Club Music project. Jamie passed away Sept. 11, 2008.

Basically, from Arthur Barrow, I learned how to make music, how to tune in to sound, how to listen and how to record. One benefit from losing the finger was that I didn’t have to beat myself up over not being able to play the guitar well. With Arthur, all he has to do is to hear it once and he’s got it. Arthur was Frank Zappa’s bass player for years, but he was also what Frank called his Clonemiester, in that, being a multi-instrumentalist, Arthur was able to orchestrate Frank’s music for the rest of the band. So our process was that I would come in with an idea, usually fairly flushed out in terms of song and chord structure. We recorded the idea, usually a guitar to a click track, then build the song from there. My original guitar track would occasionally make it to the finished song, though often we would replace it with a stronger Arthur Barrow version. Arthur is also an amazing guitar player and a whiz on the organ, so we would pile on his talents to build songs then bring other talent in to record drums, background vocals, mandolin, whatever. Robert Williams, ex-drummer for Capt. Beefheart, was a big contributor, he played drums and percussion on a lot of the songs.

M.D. BAER: Two strong themes emerge from Fell Music, that of love/romance/unrequited love and the themes of social-commentary, protest.  It’s pretty much an even split, not only with the Fell Music stuff, but throughout your catalog including The Cheeters, Venice Arts Club Music and especially the New White Trash with author and activist, Michael C. Ruppert.

LEWIS: I mean, what else is there? Equal rights and justice for all, that’s my beat.  War is a lie. Politics and politicians play a money game for a money grab. Television and Madison Ave. are vacum’s built to sustain passivity and subtract life and imagination from those they attract. The real world is somewhere else. I figured out early on that Vietnam was a calculated and cold-blooded propaganda campaign built on media cooperation and most of all built on fear…fear of the VC, fear of communism, fear of the unknown. So yea, my writing and songs have to do with a world of hearts and bones, love and loss, a through the looking glass view from the here to beyond, an awakening and an enlightenment.

M.D. BAER: Several of the Fell Music tracks, songs like WAR CREEP, WAR ETERNAL, MORE WAR NOW, SAY NO MORE, have choruses sung by children. You give credit as the ‘Venice Children’s Choir’.  Why the kids?

LEWIS: Because they were available and because having the voices of children lends a certain irony to the subject of war and to the act of protest.

M.D. BAER: Your history of working with Kristen Vigard begins with Fell Music.

LEWIS: Yes.  When Kristen and I met in the early 80’s, she was part of the NY art and music scene, as a performer and a catalyst. She came to L.A. and we met At Sunset. She sings a lot of backgrounds of the Fell Music project, and we collaborated on several songs including TIDE GOES IN, TIDE GOES OUT, also SUNCAT. There are others.

M.D. BAER: There are seven Fell Music albums and you’ve made only four available on the Bandcamp site?

LEWIS: Three of the four albums available on Bandcamp are compilations pulled from the complete body of work. The fourth – Fell Music FOUR – is the complete last album Arthur and I recorded together. FOUR is its own thing in that it chronicles my dance with cancer during that period of 2006-2007.

M.D. BAER: GROOVING WITH THE ARCHETYPES is an article written by Bud Theisen about you and the Venice Arts Club. This story, about music and healing, is pretty compelling. A reader would discover how this was not your first dance?

LEWIS: The reader would discover how in February of 2003 I was diagnosed with a malignant sarcoma and given six months to live, max. A similar recurrence and diagnosis came around again in mid-2006.

M.D. BAER: Similar but the same?

LEWIS: The same but different. There is that same echoey quality to the news itself. Like someone shouting out the diagnosis to your through a megaphone from very far away. But they are not shouting, the voice whispers but the echo builds and the force of the resonance, when the vibration hits, is dangerous and can kill. You have to remain standing, take the blowback with the stagger and stare down the light. I have a particular point of reference, and the imagery of that reference is of a horse.  A tall horse, standing somewhere, maybe in a field or a battleground, I can’t tell, and where doesn’t matter, nor does ‘why’. The horse towers above me and takes up the frame. And it’s always been my duty to get myself up and on the horse. ON Fell FOUR, the song XYZ is my dealings with it all though all the songs on FOUR are tied to the themes of recovery and alternative levels of healing.

M.D. BAER: Well, thanks for sharing.

LEWIS: Alright. Thank you.

FELL MUSIC

Hammond Organ at Lotek Studios.  Image/Patricia DeLaRosa

Fell Music Original Artwork.  Image/Patricia DeLaRosa

Arthur Barrow

Robert Williams at Lotek Studios

Doug Lewis at Lotek Studios. Image/Cara Tompkins


TIDE GOES IN, TIDE GOES OUT – Fell Music & Kristen Vigard

TIDE GOES IN, TIDE GOES OUT was written by Doug Lewis, performed by Kristen Vigard and recorded by Fell Music at Lotek Studios, Mar Vista, CA.

LOTEK STUDIOS

Lotek Studios is owned and operated by ex-Zappa bass player, ‘Clonemeister’, and music legend, Arthur Barrow, and is a mecca for L.A. recording artists seeking quality sound production engineered and produced in the lo-key, no rush, uber-eclectic environment of Barrow’s spaceship he calls Lotek Studios.

Lotek began life as a classic Los Angeles bungalow/cottage. Located south of downtown Los Angeles, the bungalow was trailered away to make room for the landing of the then new L.A. Coliseum. Barrow launched his studio in 1983. Eclectic is a fitting description for Lotek studios. Even the arrival is offbeat – via an unpaved Mar Vista/Venice back alley through a pleasantly overgrown compound and up a back porch to the studio then into the control room. Barrow will offer you coffee, ask you to smoke outside, fire up the master switch and get down to the business of making music.

Barrow’s skills as a multi-instrumentalist musician, engineer, programmer and producer are evident by a glance at his catalogue. Zappa, The Doors, Robby Kreiger, Berlin, Joe Cocker, Diana Ross, Nina Hagen, Janet Jackson, Oingo Boingo, Billy Idol, Giorgio Moroder.  Some of his many film credits include work on Top Gun, Scarface, The Doors, Breakfast Club. Barrow also composes music for classic silent films, including: The Cameraman with Buster Keaton, The Torrent featuring Greta Garbo, and The Boob, starring Joan Crawford. His self-published albums feature rich, complex and melodic compositions with a sound perfectly tailored to the Now.

If you’re a musician, an invitation to one of Arthur’s jams can be hard to come by. His guest list is an elite mix, usually Tommy Mars on Hammond organ, Rhodes piano, Rogers synth and vocals.  Then there’s either Vinnie Colaiuta, Tom Brechtlein or Andy Kravitz on drums. Brass includes Larry Klimas with Bruce and Walt Fowler. On guitar is Robby Krieger or Warren Cucurullo, while Barrow handles bass. The several incarnations born out of these collaborations include Banned From Utopia, The Mar Vista Philharmonic, Theoretical 5. 

KRISTEN VIGARD

The music hardly rests in Kristen Vigard.  She’s always bopping and singing, talking a profound stream, reciting and recalling fact and fiction in a dizzy blur, tapping a beat, restoring order or creating chaos, sometimes all at once and usually in double speed.

As a child performer, Kristen was on Broadway in the original production of  ‘Annie’. In her teens and twenties, Kristen played Moran Richards on the popular daytime soap, The Guiding Light. Then there was a calling and a move to Paris to sing in clubs and busk the streets. New York was next, then Los Angeles to record her first album, backed by Jamie Cohen at Private Music.

Kristen first met Doug Lewis of Fell Music in 1982, at the L.A. happening, AT SUNSET.  Located on the Sunset Strip at 8907 Sunset Blvd., Lewis was one of six core members At Sunset, an idea launched by media artist Jim Budman to, by word of mouth, “open the (back) door and see what happens”. What happened was that word spread, virally speaking, from the six members (Budman, Lewis, Mark Brooks, Dan Millington, Adam Linter and Dana McDonald) and out into an ever-expanding network. The result, in short time, was the evolution to a ‘multi-functional, omni-sexual, relatively civilized space where anything could, and usually did happen’.

Kristen Vigard became a regular At Sunset, her crowd included Basquiat and Warhol, James Mathers and the Topanga Scene, John Frusciante and Anthony Kleidas of the newly formed Chili Peppers.

AT SUNSET 1981-84

At Sunset occupied the former Sneaky Pete’s restaurant, a former hipster hangout on the Sunset Strip. The policy was backdoor only, down a long series of steps which adjoined and shared a common wall with the Whiskey A-Go-Go. Once at the door, if you were either on the guest list or were invited in, you paid a twenty dollar ‘donation’. Once in, there were no rules, so to speak, but especially in terms of the interior space – all was accessible.

Budman’s brother, Michael, owner of Roots sportswear, was living in Paris and had begun a monthly fashion/culture magazine called ‘Passion’, published in English for international distribution. After an ad was placed for At Sunset featuring only the logo (a John Van Hammersfeld litho) and address, word got out and the celebs arrived.

The surreal aspect of At Sunset was apparent inside through the actions of those guests who realized the loose aspect of the environment. You could walk into and through the kitchen, into the walk-in cold-box.  Or you could walk behind the bar and serve beer, wine and sake to fellow patrons. A large adjacent room served as the dance floor/stage area, then up a set of steps to two more private rooms, where interviews would be filmed, lines could be drawn, lights could be dimmed…

Outside on the Sunset Strip an equally dynamic scene was in full swing – Punks, Mods, Rockers, Funksters and Ska’s mixed with Hollywood translife at the corner of Sunset and San Vicente.  At Sunset added the gay and the straight, the young and the old, the Valley, Downtown, Malibu, Venice, and the celebs. On any given late night would be Tim Leary or Truman Capote or George Carlin behind the bar slinging drinks to a crowd rocking to a DJ spinning Tainted Love by Soft Cell, or The Untouchables in the next room spreading the live vibe.

In late 1984, exhausted by three years of nightlife, Budman, Lewis and the rest of the At Sunset crew closed the doors and the party was over.

VENICE

A decade later, Jamie Cohen was riding his bike near his house on Electric Ave. in Venice when he spotted Doug Lewis walking his dog. Turns out they lived a block from each other. Jamie Cohen was a legendary A&R man, who had signed Kristen to her first recording contract.  Cohen also played a key early role At Sunset, setting up and spinning records for the dance crowd, and bringing in the music industry alumni, including Clive Davis.

It was Cohen who introduced Lewis to Arthur Barrow, which in turn led to the production of Fell Music, featuring Lewis, Cohen, Kristen Vigard, Robert Williams, Barrow, and others. The seven albums that make up Fell Music were recorded at Lotek Studios from 1994-2006.

TIDE GOES IN, TIDE GOES OUT

Tide Goes In, Tide Goes Out is written by Doug Lewis and performed by Kristen Vigard. The spanish guitar was added by Jorge, a player Cohen and Lewis found at La Cabana, a popular Venice eatery.  Other musical performers include Lewis on guitar, Arthur Barrow on bass, guitar and organ, Robert Williams on drums. Mastered by Bob Stone RIP. The song was originally released on Fell Music, Volume 6, titled ‘The New Dystopia’. It is currently available from the Fell Music Bandcamp site, on The Best of Fell Music, Volume 1.

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The Serge @ Lotek Studios. Image/Cara Tompkins

Lotek Studios & Tommy Mars.  Image/Cara Tompkins

Doug Lewis at the Lotek board. Image/Cara Tompkins

At Sunset, Details Magazine

Doug Lewis

Jamie Cohen

Kristen Vigard


ARTHUR BARROW: Happy Birthday – Sixty Trips Around The Sun

Feb 28, 2012

ARTHUR BARROW is the ultimate hipster – smart, funny, honest, well-read and an all around civilized person and nice guy.  Arthur’s musical talent is legendary, but the man is more than his musical accomplishments.

Through a mutual friend, Jamie Cohen, I was introduced to Arthur in September of 1994.  I had been writing songs and playing music since the early 80’s, but had never made an album. We got together that year and spent a few days recording at his studio – LOTEK – in Mar Vista, CA. Those early recordings became the foundation for a series of releases I eventually put out under Fell Music.

Previous recording experiences of mine had ended badly. In one instance, my music partner, Bryan Englund, the son of Cloris Leachman, died of a drug overdose in a NYC YMCA just days before we were to begin recording at the studio of his brother, George. Other musically related opportunities and  instances proved equally fruitless. Back then, and without any of the home studio gear available today, making an album began to seem like an impossible task, so I gave up on the dream, went back to fishing, made a few more turns around the globe, got married, had kids and went to work in the L.A. film biz. I continued writing, playing and occasionally performing in local L.A. coffehouses, though the idea of recording had lost it’s appeal.

After going over the material recorded with Arthur, I recognized an opportunity to not only to make a record, but to do it with someone who was a master at his craft and did his work without pretense, ego, or any of the usual suspects that can and do get in the way of the creative process. I contacted Arthur in March of ’95 and he agreed that we would begin going through the original material, fashioning those 30+ ideas into something that resembled a cohesive whole.

A week later, on the set of Michael Jackson’s SCREAM video, I chopped off a big chunk of my left ring finger, arguably the most important finger for a (right-handed) guitarist.  So I figured that was it.  No more music and song, no more guitars. I stored them in the garage, locked the door and walked away. It was Arthur Barrow and Jamie Cohen who brought me back to life, musically speaking.

I’m no stranger to pain; I’ve broken lots of bones, and over the past 8 years I’ve undergone 14 cancer-related operations (having been told twice in the past 8 years I had 6 months to live). But an amputated finger is different; grated off by the gnarly teeth of a skill saw, what was left of my mangled finger was a bloody mess, literally.  A few months on the mend I came home from work and found my acoustic guitar on a stand by the side of my desk in the spare bedroom my wife Jane and I used as an office. Jamie had pulled it out of the garage, dusted it off, and tuned it up. The touch of the steel strings over the raw nerve of my amputation was bone-throbbingly painful. Seriously. Made me take up smoking. Cigarettes. Again.

Jamie encouraged me, then after a while insisted I get back in with Arthur. So I called and we did. Since then I’ve been blessed with enough luck to hang out and make music and good cheer with Arthur Barrow. Riding with Arthur on the musical side of life has been an experience and an education, a real journey into both the art of music-making and the heart of  friendship.

His studio, Lotek, is like a spaceship in the form of an old house trailered away from the site where the L.A. Coliseum landed. Arthur is not just a bass player, not just Frank Zappa’s bass player or Clonemeister, he plays a mean guitar, his first love growing up in a musical family in San Antonio, Texas, with a father who played church organ on Sundays (one of Arthur’s many fine religions is to bike every morning from his house to his studio and for two hours sit at his fathers Hammond organ to play pieces by Bach, Chopin, and Stravinsky – his musical hero.

Years later, when I had learned plenty from Arthur at Lotek about recording and from my setup in my home studio, Arthur would invite me over to sit in and monitor the mix board during jams and rehearsals with his friends and band members. Guys like Tommy Mars, Vinnie Colaiuta, Larry Klimas, Robby Krieger, the Fowler brothers, Warren CuccurulloTom Brechtlein, and always the spirit of Frank Zappa. Hearing these guys play live in a 20×20 foot room is a high experience, an awareness of a higher language.

Later, after both our families bought houses and settled two blocks from each other in the same Mar Vista, CA neighborhood, and when I had some rough goings dancing with cancer, Arthur would be there, always, with a ride to or from the hospital, soup from his wife, Randi Barrow, an offer to walk the dogs. Arthur and I made it through the Bush years with a shared suspicion and the feeling of a turning, and I made it through my knockout bouts with cancer by having Arthur in that circle of friends I would turn to time and time again for support and love. Big love for you, Arthur Barrow, and Happy Birthday!

Arthur, through the glass, playing bass. Image/Cara Tompkins

Lotek Studios Control Room. Image/Cara Tompkins

The Lounge at Lotek.  Image/Cara Tompkins